I’ve seen worse Paranormal Activity movies than The Ghost Dimension, and that’s sad.
What began as a simple, almost primal spook story about a couple haunted – literally and figuratively – by their demons has evolved over the years into a pointlessly complicated mythology that progressively ruins everything that once made the original movie great. When The Marked Ones finally revealed that the unthinkable off-screen nightmare at the end of the first movie was, in fact, just a hispanic teenager who wandered into the wrong house, the terror was all but dead.
All that we have left is the most superficially scary part of the Paranormal Activity series: The Startles. You know The Startles. They’re the camera angles that linger on seemingly banal scenes of families doing nothing particular and then WHAT WAS THAT OH GOD WHAT WAS THAT OH NO aaaaaaand it’s gone. By now the Paranormal Activity series has reduced The Startles to a mathematical formula so basic that you can predict every single one of them. Nothing under the bed, nothing behind you, nothing outside the window, now say “There’s nothing there” and then oh-no-what-is-that-horrible-thing, “Aaagh.”
The plot is just that there’s a new family plagued by the supernatural entity we now know as “Toby.” A little girl is speaking to Toby, and that’s creepy, etc. Meanwhile, her father has found a sci-fi video camera that captures images of ghosts on screen. He also finds leftover footage from the last good Paranormal Activity movie, Paranormal Activity 3, and he watches a lot of that. Would that we could simply join him.
As the haunting escalates, and we finally see that Toby has just been an unconvincing blotch of CGI sludge this whole time, we wonder why we’re supposed to give damn. Because if you’ll recall, somewhere out there is an evil coven of witches breeding super soldiers and nobody ever thought to resolve that subplot in the last film. So it’s kind of hard to focus on this bland new family with lame, familiar problems. Even the film’s conclusion, which kinda-sorta brings the story to an end, comes up short through a shocking lack of imagination, and a dedication to this now comically elaborate mythology that makes everything happening throughout this series seem retroactively silly, instead of frightening.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is the sort of scary that’s only fun in a crowded room, where the law of averages demands that at least one or two people aren’t horror movie junkies and will jump at just about anything. You won’t scream at the events transpiring on screen, you’ll scream because someone behind you screamed, and you’re surprised because honestly, there was nothing to scream about. At all.
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.